A Tarot Guide
on how to read cards for yourself
Before we start…
Who are you?
An independent truth-seeker who stumbled upon the spiritual path, a curious mind actively discovering what’s out there beyond the norm, a passionate spirit eager to learn more about “who I am”, “why I am here” and “what I am supposed to do with my life”.
And you don’t mind reading – this is a comprehensive guide.
If you are very new to Tarot, here is an introductory – WHAT IS TAROT?
Why is this a relationship guide?
I like to think of tarot cards as my trusted friend who knows me well and is always there when I need guidance, help, and support.
Like any friendship, we need to cultivate our relationship with Tarot for them to understand us and help us.
What is a good relationship with your cards?
When you build a true friendship with your cards, Tarot will act as an honest mirror into your soul, your unconscious, and connect you with the anima mundi, the collective consciousness. You will be able to hear your inner voice and uncover what may have been ignored by your conscious self, your Ego. And with a better understanding of ourselves, we can live our lives with more direction and purpose.
What Tarot cards do you use?
I use mainly two decks – Rider Waite Smith Centennial tarot and Thoth tarot. I’m also dabbling into Marseille Tarot – it’s relatively new for me and totally different from Waite and Thoth Tarot. Read below if you want to learn more.
There are over 100 different decks of tarot cards out there in the market. Generally, they fall under 3 main systems – Marseille, Waite, and Thoth. Read below if you are interested to learn more about the differences between them.
Marseille tarot decks are the oldest known tarot deck with very traditional images and long lineage. It’s more popular among French tarot school, whereas Waite and Thoth tarot are creations of English Tarot school. It has poker cards like minor arcana images that generally require deep knowledge of numerology before you can start interpreting them. I’m currently learning about Marseille Tarot, if you want to know more, feel free to leave me a message below!
Waite (Rider Waite Smith and most modern tarot cards out there) tarot decks are the most popular. They feature most figurative minor arcana cards, which are much easier for beginners to interpret. When I do readings for people with the Waite deck, even without any tarot knowledge, sometimes they can point at the cards and start telling me what they think the cards mean to them. If you are really new to tarot, it’s a good idea to start with the Rider Waite Smith deck
Thoth tarot deck falls somewhere in between the Marseille and Waite decks when it comes to the imagery of the minor arcana cards. While there are only shapes depicted (cups, wands, swords, and disks), they are arranged in a provocative manner with reference to sacred geometry, geomancy, Yi Ching, and astrology symbols. Additionally, Aleister Crowley named the minor arcana cards from 2 to 10, such as “Disappointment” “Valour” “Virtue” “Interference”, etc.
What makes Thoth tarot very different from the previous two systems is that it has different names and orders for both major arcana (lust vs. strength, aeon vs. judgment, art vs. temperance, etc) and court cards (knight vs. king, prince vs. knight, princess vs. page). It may seem strange and confusing at first if you are used to the Waite system.
Personally, I love using Thoth tarot to draw guidance or advice cards for myself. I found my intuition and unconscious mind are able to access deeper levels of meaning and evoke more profound messages that resonate with me.
Which deck do I get?
Start with Rider Waite Smith as your first tarot deck if you are new to tarot and are looking to answer real-life questions. Most tarot books are based on this deck.
If you are looking for more of a spiritual guide in tarot, I would strongly suggest Thoth tarot – Gerd Ziegler’s book Tarot: Mirror of the Soul is a great introductory book to reference when you don’t know where to start.
Alternatively, check out my Tarot Decks gallery below for some of the popular decks.
With all these options, how do I know which deck is for me?
- Am I attracted to the images? Do I want to look closer and get to know more about the cards? Search the deck on Google, and look for as many images as you can, especially the minor arcana cards.
- What system does this tarot deck belong to? Is it Marseille, Waite or Thoth? This can be differentiated by looking at the minor arcana cards. A good resource to look up the deck is Aeclectic Tarot. It has a very thorough list of tarot decks.
- Do the cards “speak” to me? Tarot is a very personal practice, look for the cards that you feel the connection to.
How do I befriend my cards?
First, get to know them.
Approach your cards like you would a new friend – with an open mind and curiosity. Take the time to examine each card closely when you first take them out of the box. Notice anything that catches your eye. Pay attention to any storylines or themes within the suits. Take a moment to observe how each card makes you feel.
Write these observations down. Keeping a tarot journal is a good idea – write down the message you receive from the cards. You may discover something new each day as you work with the cards. Maybe you’ll notice a detail in the drawing that you didn’t see before, or you’ll experience a new thought or feeling that the card evokes. Whatever it is, write it down as it comes to you.
Don’t rush to read the meanings of the cards in the accompanying booklet or online. Just like you can’t get to know your human friends by looking up their zodiac signs or blood types, you need to take the time to get to know your tarot cards personally. By building a personal relationship with your deck, you’ll be able to get more out of your readings and connect more deeply with your intuition.
As you get to know your cards, they’re getting to know you too, building a unique relationship that can deepen with time and practice.
A few more tips:
- Consistency is key. Set aside time every day to connect with your tarot cards, even if it’s just a few minutes.
- Treat your cards with care and respect. Keep your hands and the surface area clean. Consider storing your cards in a protective box or bag to ensure they remain safe and secure.
- Remain open to the messages of the cards, even when they evoke difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Approach each reading with an open heart and mind.
How to make observations on the cards?
Start by looking at the picture and noticing your first reaction. Do you feel uplifted, energized, calm, joyful, remorseful, sad, or lonely? Does it remind you of someone or something in your life? Pay attention to the colors on the card as well. How do they make you feel? What do they mean to you?
You can imagine talking to the card. What do they have to say? What’s their tone of speech? Do you like what they are saying to you? If you talk back to them, how do they reply? Is it a part of you that’s speaking? Is it someone in your life? Does that change your perspective on the message of the card? Ask the card if it has specific messages for you that you haven’t talked about.
Try animating the card in your mind’s eye. Close your eyes, and picture yourself standing in the scenario of the cards. Feel the sensations. Maybe the wind is blowing on your face, maybe you can smell the trees in the field, maybe you hear the chattering of the people in the background. Do you notice new sensations, feelings, or thoughts from the card you haven’t noticed before?
Cast yourself inside the card as if you are on a movie set. What is the storyline of the movie, is it a romantic movie, an action movie, a horror movie? How would you interact with it? Are you the figure depicted on the card? If there are multiple characters, which one do you identify yourself with? Or are you an observer on the side? Or are you someone that’s outside of the picture frame but actively impacting the scene? How does the scene play out?
Additional questions to ask:
Is the exercise revealing things or situations that you’ve been ignoring in your conscious mind? Do you know exactly what situation or person this card is pointing to? Does it confirm your thoughts or doubts, or reassure you about how you’re feeling? Does it inspire you to take action or make changes in your life? Are you willing and ready to take action and make those changes, or are there reasons that are holding you back?
It’s normal for us to feel afraid of changes and the unknown. However, it’s important to take responsibility for our actions and feelings and acknowledge our fears. Maybe tomorrow, we’ll be ready to take that leap.
How do talk to my cards?
To really connect with your tarot cards, you gotta talk to them! Think of it like chatting with a good friend. Ask the cards what they think about certain people (including yourself), relationships, things, or situations. Draw one card from the deck and see how they would describe them. It’s a great way to start understanding your card’s language and build a relationship with your deck!
I started with asking “how would you describe me?” “how would you describe my breakfast?” “how would you describe the tree outside of the window?””how would you describe my relationship with my dog?” “how would you describe my dream last night?” “how did I feel about the party yesterday?”
Another good way to talk to your cards is by asking them for a daily guidance card. Keep it consistent and always record the interpretation in your tarot journal.
Your tarot journal will become a “chat record” between you and your cards. You will start to notice patterns in the way your card speaks to you and develop a deeper understanding of your cards with time.
OK, how do you actually read tarot?
When I first started learning about tarot, I searched all over the internet and books to find the “right” way to read tarot. What I discovered is that there’s no universal “right” way of reading tarot. What you are looking for is what works for you and what makes you feel most comfortable and confident in your reading.
What I’m sharing is just my way of communication, it’s not the best and the only way, just what works for me. You can try out my method and see if it works for you. If not, check out other people’s methods and find one that works for you. I hope that by sharing my method I can help to demystify the process and encourage you to delve deeper into the world of tarot.
The first step is setting the intention – figuring out what question to ask your cards. You can ask your tarot cards anything:
- “What’s my day going to be like?”
- “What will I have for dinner?”
- “What’s going to happen at the party tonight?”
- “What is my cat thinking?”
- “Please give me a guidance card for now”
Ideally, the questions you are asking are something you really would like to know. I like to ask open-ended questions, meaning no simple yes-or-no questions, for example, “
Is it a good idea to go to the party?” or “ Should I take this job?” or “ Does my boyfriend love me?” or “Should I move to New York?”
Tarot offers us a glimpse into potential outcomes, much like a weather forecast predicts conditions for tomorrow. You don’t ask the weather channel “Should I go hiking tomorrow?”. Instead, you will ask “What’s the weather going to be like (when I go hiking tomorrow)?”
It’s the same with tarot cards. Tarot cards do not absolve you of the responsibility to make decisions. Ultimately, it is up to you to take action based on the insights gained from the reading.
So, if you want to know if you should take up a job offer, move to a new city, or go to a party, try asking “What are my prospects with ______” or “How would I do with _____” or “What will happen if I _____”
If you want to know if you should stay in the relationship or pursue a new relationship, try asking “What will my relationship with _____ bring me?” “What does the future look like with _____?” “How would I feel staying/starting this relationship with _____?”
If you want to know if you can find love/get a raise/start a new job/buy a house, instead of asking “Will I ____?”, try asking “Please give me advice on how I can ______”.
Think of your tarot cards as a trusted friend and advisor, who can provide you with valuable insights into your circumstances and offer you an opportunity for introspection. Approach them with an open mind and an open heart. Allow them to guide you in your self-discovery and personal growth.
Now we figured out what question to ask, it’s time to convey the question to the cards.
To start, I put my hands on top of the deck with a clear mind, without any thoughts or strong emotions.
Don’t try to read tarot when you feel distracted, stressed, or emotional, it can be hard to keep a clear mind, and you will soon find that your reading is affected by your well-being.
I close my eyes and ask my tarot cards the question I seek guidance on, with a gentle and open-hearted curiosity. I often repeat the question three times to deepen my connection to the cards.
Once I feel that the cards have fully absorbed my question, I open my eyes and begin shuffling the deck. I spread the cards all over the table, shuffle them around with both hands in a clockwise motion and stop the shuffling only when I feel it’s thorough and complete. This is my go-to shuffling, even though it takes a lot more space than overhand shuffling. You can shuffle the cards in any way you like.
I collect and organize my cards back into a deck in landscape orientation. I let the cards naturally fall from the bottom to cut into 3 piles. I pick up the 1st file (bottom), put it on top of the 3rd pile (top), and then finally on top of the 2nd pile (middle). Now, the shuffling is complete.
Now turn the deck 90° clockwise to portrait orientation, then spread it over the table.
Decide how many cards or what spread you are going to pull. For most daily guidance questions, it can be 1 card or 3 cards with no particular spread. If you are new to tarot, start with just 1 card.
To select the card, I simply pick one from the deck with my intuition, often within a split second and quite carefreely, and then I turn it over along its long edge to reveal the card. You can flip the card along the long edge or the short edge. As I mentioned earlier, there’s really no rule on tarot reading. You can even try both ways and see what makes more sense to you.
Your reading doesn’t change by the way you choose your card. Thinking, or not thinking; fast, or slow – doesn’t really matter from my experience. So trust the process and let your heart and your intuition guide you to develop your own tarot style.
Any book or study recommendations?
Reading into other people’s interpretation of tarot can be helpful, as long as you are not relying 100% on it. They cannot replace your own understanding of the cards as mentioned before!
Sometimes, you may come across card explanations in a book or online that you disagree with or it simply doesn’t make sense to you. That’s completely normal. Don’t force the meaning onto your cards, or onto yourself. You are building your own authentic relationship with your cards. Always keep that in mind when you look up external resources.
Check out these books/websites :
Additionally, you can check out my Tarot notebook, a study journal where I collect notations I found valuable and some of my own thoughts. I also collect different deck images – I’m a visual person! Bad news, it’s currently incomplete – I’ve only worked through Waite Major Arcana so far…
Phew, thank you for bearing with me and coming all the way here.
I wish you the best on your tarot journey!
Hi, my name is Zoe.
I’m thrilled to guide you through this magical world!